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Archi Velo and the Five Ferry Challenge

The climb of Glen Caladh with the view across Loch Riddon on one side and Bute on the other will take some beating when it comes to future cycling trips. Breathing some crisp Scottish air, taking a few team snaps, and popping a couple of Jelly Babies brought the sort of bliss that can only come after pedalling a steep ascent.

As a non-architect-but-building-enthusiast (my career is within the theme), I was hosted by Archi Velo Glasgow for the Five Ferries Challenge in my native Scotland. I recruited some other non-architect friends for the trip and took the train from my home town of London, bike in tow. 

First leg: Team train journey to Ardrossan then Ferry No 1: Ardrossan to Brodick (the biggest ferry) followed by the cycle from Brodick to Lochranza. Deceptively steep. The first ascent certainly warmed us up and then we were speedily cooled down with a downpour on the descent to Lochranza - the perfect introduction to cycling in Scotland. We were a man down at Lochranza, but the Mechanical Support Team stayed behind for moral support followed by a couple of drams from the local distillery as fortification. The rest of us pushed on to Clonaig (Ferry No 2 considerably smaller).  

A bumpy 10 miles to Tarbet, ending in lunch and news that the next ferry had a part missing, but that a local fisherman would take us on his boat for a tenner. Handy. Pints and fish and chips with a view of the bay allowed time for the missing part to be found and installed it would seem. Full team were again reunited and we get on a slightly smaller ferry, Ferry No 3 to Portavadie. Not long enough a journey to digest but long enough to forget the climb ahead. 

This stretch was a serious ascent and the longest at 19 miles, arduous but completely serene. Roads were smooth, empty and surrounded by rugged Scottishness. If I had been able to, I would have been smiling a lot. The team took to their own pace with a peloton forming up ahead… way up ahead. I became very fond of Jelly Babies in those solitary moments, for company and then for energy. 

Descent to Colintravie for Ferry No 4 (essentially a tug boat at this point, and my favourite of the Five) which was pleasant and long enough to allow some recovery. An incredible view down to Rothesay with sun streaming through a rainy mist - my favourite weather in Scotland, which is lucky as its so regular. 

A full peloton took on the 8 miles jaunt into Rothesay where we reconvened with some fellow Five Ferry-ers we met back on Ferry No 1. The cycle was right along the water edge and the wind somewhat refreshing. Those with residual leg power took on the town’s Serpentine Climb and the rest retired to The Palace Bar for Gerry Rafferty, Tennents and pats on the back, until the final ferry, Ferry No 5, took us back to the mainland. 

Lucie Murray is Senior Programme Manager with New London Architecture (NLA). 

www.newlondonarchitecture.org 

Michael Dougall